Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The lastest from Intacto director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is big on atmosphere but light on plot. Exploring the realm where nightmares crash into reality, it’s a two-track story in English and Spanish - one half following little boy Juan (Izan Corchero) and his night terrors in Spain and the second tracking a London suburban dad (Clive Owen), whose 11-year-old daughter Mia (Ella Purnell) becomes petrified about what is lurking in the corner of her bedroom at night. Both children refer to their nighttime bogeymen as Hollowface and write stories about his desire to steal the face of a human boy - and it isn’t long before Juan’s mum Luisa (Pilar Lopez de Ayala) and Mia’s dad John seem to be encountering the phantoms, too.

Nightmares are an unpredictable source of fear that everyone can relate too - and the idea of them crossing over into the realm of those who are awake is not particularly new, cropping up in everything from the Nightmare On Elm Street series through to recent sci-fi fantasty Ink. Fresnadillo uses their paradoxically recurrent yet arbitrary nature - and the audience´s own expectations of what they think will constitute a ’nightmare’ movie - to notch up the creep factor as we start to wonder whether there might be some substance to these things that go bump in the night.

Copy picture

"You know Hollowface doesn’t exist?" a psychiatrist asks Mia. "Yes," she replies. "But he thinks he does."

Although the fear of the children and parents creates tension for a while, the most interesting parts of the story are stacked heavily towards the end of the film, meaning that for most of the runtime there is little to drive the action along, save for the fear of Hollowface himself. The result is a whole of lot of portent with little pay-off.

The routinely excellent Carice van Houten never gets purchase on the thinly drawn character of Mia’s mother, despite her best efforts, while a whisper of a possible subplot involving Daniel Bruhl’s young priest and Luisa starts promisingly but quickly runs out of steam - although it does provide for a welcome cameo from Héctor Alterio.

The constant high tension with not enough in the way of high stakes also has the effect of diluting the horror element, so that no matter how much composer Roque Baños (The Last Circus) ramps up the string glissandos or how many camera tricks Fresnadillo tries, the scares are less effective than they should be, while attempts to explore the idea of storytelling and parenthood lack depth. Enjoyable enough while you’re watching it but it certainly won’t linger long enough to give you nightmares.

Reviewed on: 17 Sep 2011
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Intruders packshot
Two children and their parents find nightmares may be real.
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Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Writer: Nicolás Casariego, Jaime Marques

Starring: Clive Owen, Carice van Houten, Daniel Brühl, Ella Purnell, Izán Corchero, Pilar López de Ayala, Héctor Alterio

Year: 2011

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, Spain


SSFF 2011

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